Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Perils of Microtransactions, and the Wrath 3.0.8 PTR

UPDATE (3:10 PM EST): The line about DK appearences has been removed from the newer version of the notes, so there might NOT be any new textures beyond the ones introduced in the expansion launch. Take the relevant section of this post with a grain of salt.

Warhammer's getting a new patch today, and you know what that means: Breaking news from Blizzard! (This is why competition in the MMORPG marketplace is a good thing, even if you're never going to play another game beyond your own.) Some tidbits:

Paid Character Recustomization
The rumored paid character customization system was rolled out live with zero advance notice, perhaps figuring that any complaints would be lost in the storm over EQ2 exp potions. The changes are benign for the most part - $15 lets you change any portion of your character's appearance that does NOT affect gameplay, i.e. gender, face, skin color, name, etc. As Rohan notes, I don't expect there to be an Azeroth-shaking number of takers for this.

The only catch? The PTR patch notes are mentioning that:
Death Knights have access to unique death-knight only facial textures and skin tones. These can be selected at the character creation screen.
Ordinarily, I'm 100% behind companies raising a little revenue by offering cosmetic perks that don't affect gameplay. Catch is, Death Knights are one of the major features of the expansion, which is less than a month old.

Maybe there was no malicious intent, but it certainly looks suspicious to be adding in new appearances so soon after the expansion and charging a $15 fee to access them on existing characters. However, offering Death Knights a free do-over would set a precedent for future additions. This is exactly why adding microtransactions to an existing subscription game can be dangerous.

Fanservice from the PTR's
From the version of the PTR notes up on MMO Champion (I'm writing this off of the 15:30 CET update), there are some interesting tidbits about the new PTR, which is supposedly going up today (client is already out for download).

- I will be receiving the Loremaster of Kalimdor achievement retroactively, as they're cutting the quest requirement rather than taking the time to figure out what the problems are.

- Warlocks and Shadow Priests can rejoice, as DOT's and other debuffs will apparently tap enemies. I'm curious whether this means that every class will now have some form of instant-cast tapping spell.

- They've finally removed the race restrictions from mounts, so expect to see a bunch of Alliance on Mechanostriders and Tauren on, well, anything but a Kodo. This is one of those lore things that someone on the dev team apparently got worked up over late in the original beta, only to bend the rules for an increasing variety of rare mounts. I don't see why Blizzard would WANT to restrict players from timesinks, and apparently Blizzard finally agrees, four years later.

- That said, the racial mount change was almost certainly driven by the addition of new mount achievements. Basically, any mount achievement that a Tauren can manage is relatively easy for everyone else. There are new mount/minipet achievements up to 100 of each. I'm not sure that there even are 100 minipets in the game at the moment (Warcraft Pets lists 110, but that includes promotional pets that aren't even available anymore). After a skim through Warcraft Mounts, I'm pretty sure that 100 mounts will be similarly difficult/impossible without raid achievements, rare/raid drops, and possibly even the CCG mounts that cost real money. Expect many, many complaints on this front from the community if the version MMO-Champion is reporting is accurate. The reward here is not merely a different colored mount, but the elusive flying Dragonhawk mount used in the patch 2.4 dailies.

- There are a variety of interesting class changes. Slow Fall is now castable on other players, which opens the door for crazy mid-air battles. The confusing Feral Attack Power stat has been removed, with an overhaul to the underlying mechanics to get the same effect without having to create weapons that only one spec of one class wants. Fury Warriors get some buffs to Bloodthirst and Titan's Grip (no hit penalty!). Arcane mages are supposedly in for a bit of a revamp, as are hunters.

- Finally, MMO-Champion datamined a "pack mule" spell that summons a mule that lets you browse your bank. That's potentially pretty cool, if it isn't the reward for some insane combination of achievements or something.

Overall, nothing groundbreaking here that's really going to shake the post-80 game. Still, it looks like an interesting polish patch overall.


Isisxotic said...

Are those death knight textures actually *new*? There are several death-knight only skin tones and facial features for each race currently. My draenei has sickly green skin and sunken cheek bones that wouldn't be available to a draenei mage, for example.

Green Armadillo said...

The line I quoted in the post was in the patch notes this morning, but is gone from the more recent patch notes. It's possible that there are no new textures and that someone mistakenly included that old feature in the patch notes. I'm putting a note in the original post to note that this may have been an error.

Orgauth said...

"Pack mule"... I have a better idea: Since engineers now have the portable mailbox schematic for conjuring... well... a mailbox, expand on that with a new schematic for a portable ATM, allowing access to your bank. Something like that just oozes Gnomish ingenuity.